When you’re drowning in guilt, there doesn’t seem to be any right answer for how to move forward.
At least that’s what Jane (not her real name) thought when she was struggling about whether to tell her boyfriend of 7 years about her secret desire she almost acted out a year prior but didn’t.
“What was I thinking?” she wondered.
How could she have even considered caving in to the temptation of being with another man?
Now she was totally eaten up with guilt.
Should she tell her partner what almost happened or should she try to minimize the damage and just keep everything to herself?
This is the point where Jane contacted us for help about her next steps.
She wanted to figure out how much (if any of this) she should reveal to her boyfriend Roger, how to stop feeling so guilty and most importantly…
How she and Roger could start to feel more connected again…
Since he’d commented to her on more than one occasion about how he felt her pulling away from him when they’d felt close in the past.
There are all kinds of guilt.
–Guilt about what did or didn’t happen and what you’re ashamed of that you’re not willing to admit to anyone (maybe not even your best friend)
–Guilt about lies you told to keep something private and yourself emotionally safe
–Guilt about what you think you SHOULD say or do to keep someone else happy but you don’t really want to keep doing it
–Guilt about commitments that you’ve broken in relationships that ended badly and on and on…
Guilt is one of those things that can paralyze any single one of us and it doesn’t have to.
The truth is that most of us don’t realize the part guilt plays in our lives, the actions we take because we’re holding so tightly to it and the cost of carrying it around.
As we talked with Jane, she began to see how the thinking she was believing (that this shouldn’t have happened) had not only kept alive the guilt of what she’d perceived as violating their agreements…
But in the process, she realized she’d been pushing Roger away–walling herself off from him.
She realized that this incident that she’d been beating herself up over was actually a wake-up call and not something to keep painfully dredging up over and over.
In a weird way, the guilt she’d been carrying had served her greatly by allowing her to focus on constantly beating herself up because of the thoughts she shouldn’t have had toward that other guy instead of taking an honest look at her relationship with Roger.
Instead of looking to the past, Jane saw that she needed to look inside herself for what she really wanted in her relationship with Roger–and look to her future.
She saw that the guilt had kept her from doing this.
She saw that when she opened her heart to Roger, there was the opportunity to explore what each of them wanted in their relationship.
Otherwise there wasn’t that opportunity to allow something new to emerge.
If guilt’s been a problem for you in the past or you’re feeling guilty about something now, it may be trying to tell you something.
If your guilt is telling you that you need to make amends for how you’ve hurt someone, listen.
If your guilt is made of “shoulds” in order to try to please someone or to keep yourself safe or loved…
Take a few moments and look inside to see if you want to keep carrying that thinking around with you any longer.
You do have a choice!